I have been asked frequently about CRM in my recent encounters with executives of the food industry. The interesting thing is, that they all want to improve different aspects of their organization and expect different solutions. The de-facto market leader in the field of CRM is probably salesforce.com and its SaaS software suite. While it is a great software solution, it only applies to a small fraction of a food business.
Sales people are normally divided into ‘hunters’ and ‘farmers’. Most food businesses that I have seen deal largely with serving an established client base which does not really change drastically. The needs for software that supports ‘hunting’ activities such as trade-show follow-ups, direct mailing, cold calling and other customer acquisition methods are therefore of limited use. This is an aspect that most traditional CRM software suites shine in, including salesforce.com.
CRM for ‘farming’ activities look of course completely different. CRM tools for farming surround activities that make the customer interaction more efficient and more profitable. The range of products that can address these needs can be quite long:
- Sales support information such as recent order quantities for items during the order process
- Online checks for pricing accuracy and product availability to ensure order fill rates
- self service websites, where customers can change orders, download old invoices, see outstanding invoices and current order status information
- Product information services via websites or EPCIS
- EDI integration, auto-emailing and faxing for more effective communication between business partners
- BA (Business Analytics) tools, that allow to analyze customer buying patterns to increase sales
- Complaint tracking tools and credit authorization processes that are transparent and well managed.
- and many more
‘Farming’ CRM solutions need to be highly integrated into the ERP Suite of organizations in food, since most information needs to be available to customer service during the process of taking a new order.
Companies need to understand the opportunities and buy into the right solutions that improve the particular parts of CRM that apply to their business to accomplish a successful implementation of CRM. Customer Relations is an important business practice, and needs to be supported with the right tools. Pick the right tools!